Theology Thursday: Flourishing When Life is Hard

mother flourishing when life is hard by working at coffee table with baby

People often assume that to flourish, their life must feel good. However, life is full of successes and failures and it does not always feel good. To flourish is to create or embrace an environment for vigorous, healthy growth as a person. Regardless of circumstances, it’s possible to flourish even through tough times. There are some basic and effective choices we must make to consistently live out this posture of life to flourish.

Choose Authenticity

Flourishing begins with authenticity. Today’s social media world encourages us to cultivate our life for others, denying our difficulties while promoting only the best aspects of our lives. This pretension leads to unhealthy comparisons, depression and social isolation rather than flourishing.

The Old Testament book of Psalms counteracts this destructive tendency. Written by people facing the entire gamut of life’s experiences and emotions, the Psalms reveal that flourishing begins with authenticity before God. Refusing to hide, revealing our innermost thoughts and feelings, and relying on the God who created us, loves us and sustains us, leads us to spiritual depth – a sign of flourishing.

The next step is authenticity with others. We must resist the temptation to engage in “impression management.” Instead, fashion our lives to be known for no more and no less than what we truly are. We participate in Jesus’ call to let our yes be yes and our no be no (Matthew 5:37, ESV), leading us to healthy and genuine relationships with others.

Align Your Thoughts With God’s Truth

In times of difficulty, it can be easy to let our thoughts run wild to places of catastrophe and despair. However, the Bible instructs us to take every thought captive to obedience to Christ (2 Corinthians 1:5, ESV) so that God’s peace guards our hearts and minds (Philippians 4:7, ESV). When we feel at peace, we are able to live our lives more intentionally and positively.

To take thoughts captive to Christ, we replace untrue or unhelpful thoughts with the truth. To do this, we memorize Scripture and focus on it, even repeating shorts phrases from Scripture over and over. For example, when we are consumed by fear we replace those thoughts by repeating, “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me”, (Psalm 23:4, ESV).

When we fear scarcity, we replace those thoughts by repeating, “The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want”, (Psalm 23:1, ESV). When we think no one loves us, we replace those thoughts with “Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the LORD forever”, (Psalm 23:6, ESV). Capturing and replacing thoughts trains our minds to flourish with thoughts that are good and true (Philippians 4:8, ESV).

Look Forward

In the midst of difficulties, people sometimes do not flourish because they get stuck. In his book, “Where is God When it Hurts?” author Philip Yancey (1990) writes about changing the question we ask during hard times to move us toward flourishing. Instead of asking “Why?” he suggests asking, "To what end?" This shifts our thoughts beyond ourselves and our current difficulties toward what God will do to work things together for good (Romans 8:28, ESV).*

Flourish

Choosing authenticity, aligning our thoughts with God’s truth and looking forward to what God will do forms us into people who flourish in all seasons. Through tough times, the Holy Spirit will develop perseverance, character and hope in us (Romans 5:3-5, ESV), and a life marked by perseverance, character and hope is indeed a life of flourishing.

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*Retrieved From Yancey, P. (1990). Where is God when it hurts? Zondervan

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Grand Canyon University. Any sources cited were accurate as of the publish date.

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